Virtual Roundtables

SAH presented virtual roundtables throughout the month of May. These programs complemented the in-person conference programming and provided active, in-depth discussions on current conditions of scholarship, pedagogy, preservation, and student advocacy. All programs were recorded and videos are available below.

Program Date: Tuesday, May 2
Chat Transcript

This conversation is focused on a recently published edited volume, Exactitude: On Precision and Play in Contemporary Architecture, edited by Pari Riahi, Laure Katsaros, and Michael T. Davis (Amherst and Boston: UMass Press, 2022).

While precision has always been integral to architecture, new technologies, codes, and data have increased the demands for accuracy. Yet, the importance of precision, or exactitude, has not received the consideration it merits. This edited volume explores the demands exactitude makes on architecture, with 11 essays investigating the possibilities and shortcomings of exactitude. In bringing history, theory, and practice together, the work explores exactitude, tolerance, and play, through a broad range that covers the span of the 16th century to now, with particular focus on the 20th century. Featuring new work by theorists, historians, editors, and architects, this volume brings theory and practice into insightful and productive conversations. In addition to the editors, contributors include Mark Wigley, Alejandro Zaera-Polo, Eric Höweler, Christopher Benfey, Sunil Bald, Ada Tolla, and Giuseppe Lignano with Thomas de Monchaux, Alicia Imperiale, Francesca Hughes, Teresa Stoppani, and Cynthia Davidson.

In this virtual roundtable, we will endeavor to explore how exactitude is understood, absorbed, interpreted, tampered with, even undermined in historic, theoretical, artistic, and practical terms in architecture. This discussion concerns architecture as a creative and productive discipline and questions the use of technology, data, construction norms, and tolerances, in the conception and realization of architectural projects. It situates debates on exactitude in modern architecture, endeavors to show how tolerance and play can affect the development of projects and questions the role of data, and by extension new technologies in the recent past and current landscape of architecture.

Pari Riahi, Editor, Associate Professor, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Sunil Bald, Contributor, Associate Dean, Professor, Yale School of Architecture
Francesca Hughes, Contributor, Independent Scholar, Hughes Meyer Studio
Alicia Imperiale, Contributor, Acting Assistant Dean, Adjunct Associate Professor, Pratt Institute
Mark Wigley, Contributor, Professor, Dean Emeritus, GSAPP, Columbia University,
Antoine Picon, Respondent, G. Ware Travelstead Professor, GSD, Harvard University

Wednesday, May 3
12:00–1:30 pm CDT
This program was not recorded.

This roundtable continues the town hall conversation that took place at the annual conference in Montréal.

For architectural history to be more equitable, its high cost of entry must fall. PhDs with a low socioeconomic background find a decade of training challenging to afford. Parent PhDs struggle to afford childcare, while others put off having children altogether. For international PhDs working on a visa, the field’s new "global" gaze contrasts with their complicated and expensive travels. What would it look like if the discipline of architectural history centered these and other struggles?

While the discipline has yet to tackle this, the union wave sweeping across our campuses appears aimed to do so. PhDs in architectural history have certainly taken part. In the past year alone, grads have voted to unionize at many prominent private universities across the United States (including MIT, Yale, Northwestern, University of Southern California, and University of Chicago), with many more unionization efforts underway (such as Cornell, Princeton, Penn, Penn State, Pittsburgh, and Stanford.) These join a handful of existing unions at other private universities (like Columbia, NYU, and Harvard) and many long-standing unions across the public university systems (including California, Illinois, New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, Washington, and more.) In Canada, unions underway at University of British Columbia and elsewhere might soon join the list of unionized universities, including Carlton, McGill, Toronto, and York. How can we tie these efforts on our campuses to the interstitial structures of our academy?

All grads are invited to this town hall on how our academic societies, like SAH, can join with efforts on our campuses to bring about living wages for architectural historians.

Program Date: Tuesday, May 9
Chat Transcript

China has a rich built heritage, yet this fact belies Chinese notions of what constitutes preservation. This roundtable approaches contemporary heritage preservation in China, framing notions of preservation from an Indigenous perspective that challenges Western-centric notions of authenticity and integrity. Our panel will proceed from the Chinese conception of wenhua (culture), more precisely translated as “the transforming (preserving) influence of writing” and what panelist Li Shiqiao has described as “poetic productions of text based memory,” whereby architecture is actively preserved within a literary tradition. The following panelists will introduce their works on:

  • the Communist Party of China’s heritage preservation as a lived culture by examining its conservation of the former residence of Mao Zedong (Zhe Dong)
  • the virtual restoration of a shikumen-style house based on the residents’ memory, and conservation challenges presented by inhabited heritage (Yingchun Li)
  • Xiujiurujiu (repairing the old to make it look old) in reconstruction and restoration, and how different stakeholders use xiujiurujiu to appropriate heritage values for specific goals (Bo Bian)
  • the erosion of the integrity of historic fabric in Shanghai’s old town due to redevelopment practices that assign low priority to landmarks and neighborhoods (Katya Knyazeva)
  • how the emergence of a grass-roots preservationist community in Chinese social media reframe orthodox notions of heritage preservation (Kelly Ritter)

Then the panel will enter into a rigorous and critically engaged discussion of heritage preservation in modern China.

An interrogation of Chinese conceptions of memory and authenticity destabilizes not only the debate about how and why we preserve our constructed environment, but the unspoken premise that Western principles of preservation tied to physical and historical integrity represent best practices for China. Participants will walk away with a more dynamic understanding about what constitutes the most crucial methods of heritage preservation when you decenter the West.

Yingchun Li, Tongji University
Shiqiao Li, University of Virginia
Zhe Dong, Huazhong University of Science and Technology
Kelly W.S. Ritter, Bay Area Cultural Heritage Coalition
Katya Knyazeva, Universitá del Piemonte Orientale
Bo Bian, University of Virginia

Program Date: Tuesday, May 16
Chat Transcript
Join Annmarie Adams for a conversation about her 2023 Eduard F. Sekler Talk, "Shift Work: The Hospital in Histories of Architecture and Medicine," which she delivered at the SAH 2023 Annual International Conference in Montréal. SAH Graduate Student Advisory Committee member Sben Korsh will moderate the discussion. (You do not need to have seen Adams' talk to participate in this conversation.)

The work of Annmarie Adams bridges the worlds of architectural and medical history. Adams has served as both Director of the School of Architecture, where she has taught for more than 30 years, and Chair of the Department of Social Studies of Medicine at McGill University in Montréal. She currently holds the Stevenson Chair in the Philosophy and History of Science, including Medicine. Her award-winning books include Architecture in the Family Way: Doctors, Houses, and Women, 1870–1900; ‘Designing Women’: Gender and the Architectural Profession (co-authored with Peta Tancred), and Medicine by Design: The Architect and the Modern Hospital, 1893–1943. Her expertise on health and design is much cited by the media, including The Atlantic, Elle Décor, Financial Times Magazine, The Guardian, Nature, New York Times, and WIRED. Adams’ awards include the Jason Hannah Medal from the Royal Society of Canada, a Health Career Award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and a YWCA Woman of Distinction prize. She is a Fellow of both the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. She has served on the SAH Board of Directors and is currently vice president of the Canadian Society for the History of Medicine. This year Adams is on sabbatical to complete a spatial biography of cardiologist and museum curator Maude Abbott.

Program Date: Wednesday, May 17
Chat Transcript

This roundtable will provide SAH members with an opportunity to discuss recent preservation issues. The session will include a recap of the advocacy efforts of the SAH Heritage Conservation Committee over the last year, and will lead to an open conversation of recent preservation issues and controversies. Issues may include the preservation of modern and postmodern resources, the impacts of climate change upon historic resources, the challenge of providing workforce housing in historic neighborhoods, and recent challenges of transparency with regard to alteration and demolition of publicly-owned buildings. The SAH Heritage Conservation Committee looks to build upon the success of the roundtables held at the 2018 through 2022 SAH annual meetings, and looks forward to this annual event.

Moderator: Bryan Clark Green, Chair, Heritage Conservation Committee

Program Date: Thursday, May 18
Chat Transcript

This roundtable convenes scholars with expertise in developing classes and assignments in Asian American cultural heritage to share how Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) buildings and landscapes can be used to teach architectural history and to transform our understanding of US history. The moderators and panelists will discuss how specific topics and assignments illuminate the diasporic nature of AAPI heritage and disrupt prevailing immigration narratives to complicate global architectural history. Panelists will share a teachable moment that draws on an AAPI case to make a larger point about the complexities of the AAPI presence in the US built environment and the richness of AAPI contributions to US architectural history. Drawn from the broader membership of the SAH Asian American & Diasporic Architectural History Affiliate Group, our presenters have developed and taught courses in AAPI art and architectural history, Asian American history and cultural studies at a broad range of public and private institutions, in disciplines ranging from design programs to an array of majors in the humanities and social sciences. Registration for the event is open to the public.


  • Sujin Eom (Dartmouth College)
  • Sean H. McPherson (Bridgewater State University)
  • Lauren Weiss Bricker, Cal Poly Pomona, “Preserving Riverside’s National Historical Landmark Harada House Empowers a Design Curriculum”
  • Edson Cabalfin, Tulane University, “Teaching Filipino Architecture to Children as Approach to Appreciating AAPI Heritage.”
  • Gabrielle Esperdy, New Jersey Institute of Technology, “Emerging Digital Models for Inclusive Architectural Histories.”
  • Michelle Magalong, University of Maryland, “Teaching Asian American Studies in Historic Preservation.”
  • Desiree Valadares, University of British Columbia, “Asian Canadian Studies in Transit.”
  • Hongyan Yang, Boston College, “Preserving AAPI Resources through Community-Engaged Teaching.”


Program Date: Tuesday, May 23
Chat Transcript

“Una unidad vecinal es una ciudad en miniatura en la cual están resueltos los problemas de habitación, educación, sanidad, vivienda, recreación y comercio para un número previamente determinado de habitantes [...] Sus habitantes no son ya los esclavos de la gran ciudad, sino sus servidores. [...] hacen una vida hogareña independiente, saliendo sólo los padres de familia para dirigirse al sitio del trabajo mientras las madres y los niños quedan seguros en el hogar. [...] Una unidad vecinal es, en suma, una población para seres humanos libres y sanos. La cuna para las nuevas generaciones que han de construir un Perú mejor”. (El Arquitecto Peruano, 1945)


Between 1930 and 1970, Latin American governments assumed the challenge of providing housing for the poor according to international development agendas which informed national plans to eradicate so-called slums. The Unidad Vecinal became the urban model most widely used to provide housing for a working class that never materialized fully in Latin America.

The purpose of this urban model was not only to reduce housing deficits, or to improve the living conditions of the urban poor, but also to absorb new urban residents into the dominant socio-economic system. Architects, planners, and government officials promoted a narrative in which the worker was a generic individual with no ethno-national origin. At the same time, an identity was created for women as housewives, while housing policy, if financing and design imposed the notion of the nuclear family. Thus, as Terry indicates, the Unidad Vecinal emerges as both a homogenizing tool and a disciplinary device: it converts members of a heterogeneous society into modern urban residents.

This roundtable adds to existing scholarship on the Unidad Vecinal by discussing the intersection amongst architecture, class, gender, and race in Latin American modern housing. Did a working class exist? Were there gender considerations in either housing policy of design process at the time? How did planner and architects engaged, or ignore, ethno-racial differences? These are only a few of the questions this roundtable will address.

Felipe Hernandez, University of Cambridge, UK

Flavia Britto Do Nascimento, Universidade de São Paulo FAUUSP, Brazil
Adriana Massidda, University of Sheffield, UK
Penélope Plaza, University of Reading, UK
Umberto Bonomo, Universidad Católica de Chile
Liliana Clavijo, Universidad del Valle, Columbia, and University of Michigan, USA

Program Date: Wednesday, May 24
Chat Transcript

Davide Spina, winner of the 2023 SAH David B. Brownlee Dissertation Award for "Christian Democrats, Architecture and Capitalist Development in Post-War Italy: Società Generale Immobiliare (SGI), 1945–75," will give an overview of his dissertation work and engage in a discussion with audience members on the changing nature of architecture history dissertations at this moment in time. The roundtable discussion will also provide a background on the award and the legacy of Professor Brownlee.

Program Date: Thursday, May 25
Chat Transcript
Fugitive Archives: A Sourcebook for Centring Africa in Histories of Architecture is a collection of primary sources chosen by each of the 10 researchers participating in Centring Africa: Postcolonial Perspectives on Architecture, the 2019–2022 iteration of the CCA’s Multidisciplinary Research Program organized with the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The researchers are the late Doreen Adengo (Adengo Architecture, Kampala); Dele Adeyemo (Goldsmiths, University of London); Warebi Gabriel Brisibe and Ramota Obagah-Stephen (Rivers State University); Rachel Lee and Monika Motylinska (TU Delft; Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space); Ikem Stanley Okoye (University of Delaware); Cole Roskam (University of Hong Kong); Łukasz Stanek (University of Manchester; University of Michigan); Huda Tayob (University of Manchester).

Comprised of archival materials and documentation of varied media and formats, the collected sources offer unique readings of different actors, structures, and geographies—on and off the Continent—that multiply histories of modern African architecture. Rather than suggesting key, but inevitably reductive, themes, the three sections of the book bring into dialogue sources that foreground similar approaches to location and accessing archives. These open-ended groupings are framed by conversations between the researchers about the “how” of centering Africa through archival research—methods and challenges of different ways of finding, seeing, and listening. Fugitive Archives offers students, educators, and researchers a critical resource for expanding and/or dismantling existing architectural and colonial archives, for teaching global architecture history, and for future scholarship.

This is the CCA’s latest publication and will be printed in April 2023. This roundtable will be one of the first occasions for readers to encounter the work. The book will serve as a starting point for a discussion on stretching and reimagining archival futures for the African continent.

Claire Lubell, Canadian Centre for Architecture
Rafico Ruiz, Canadian Centre for Architecture

Rachel Lee, TU Delft
Ikem Stanley Okoye, University of Delaware
Huda Tayob, University of Manchester

Thandi Loewenson, Royal College of Art
Nokubekezela Mchunu, University College Dublin


SAH thanks The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation
for its operating support.
Society of Architectural Historians
1365 N. Astor Street
Chicago, Illinois 60610